During his speech on the state of the union given on Tuesday evening (February 7), Vice President Joe Biden took aim at Big Tech and also took a jab at cable subscription costs. Big Tech took the brunt of the criticism that the Vice President levelled at Big Tech.
During the portion of his speech in which he was criticising various industries, such as “big pharma” and airlines, for charging what he referred to as “junk fees,” he said, “Give me a break” in reference to the idea that cable, internet, and cellphone companies can charge you $200 or more if you decide to switch to another provider.
He stated that there are “hidden surcharges” that amount to hundreds of dollars every month. The Junk Fee Prevention Act, which would include those cable early-termination fees, has been proposed by the administration of Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden also advocated for the passage of legislation in Congress that would outlaw noncompete agreements and strengthen antitrust enforcement in order to prevent “big online platforms” from favouring their own products and services.
At the end of his speech, Vice President Joe Biden stated that social media platforms needed to be held accountable for “experimenting with children for profit.” He also called for legislation that would prohibit the collection of personal information about children and teenagers by big tech companies, impose stricter limits on the data that can be collected from adults, and outlaw targeted advertising to children.
Much of what Biden said in his first State of the Union address last year was repeated here. Congress and the Biden administration have long been concerned about the safety of children using the Internet, but their concerns reached a new peak in 2021 after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal company documents outlining the dangers to young people’s mental health posed by using Meta platforms like Instagram. Haugen was invited by First Lady Jill Biden to the president’s final address, demonstrating the administration’s commitment to strengthening cybersecurity measures.
However, not much has been done in the United States over the past two years to ensure the safety of young people using social media. Numerous bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate, but none have received enough support to be brought to a vote.
Many of these bills, like the one introduced by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) to update an existing online child safety law, do much of what Biden asked for on Tuesday, including prohibiting platforms like Instagram and YouTube from targeting ads to minors.
Vice President Biden used the primetime slot to boast about his administration’s efforts to make the United States more competitive with China. He specifically highlighted the CHIPS and Science Act, which included $52 billion in funding to increase semiconductor manufacturing in the United States. Biden did not address whether or not his administration would ban the video-sharing app TikTok during his speech, which focused heavily on China.
That we are investing to make America strong is something I will not apologise for,” Biden said. Putting money into industries that will shape the future and that the Chinese government is determined to dominate.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, claimed that the president had omitted to mention that his administration had “colluded with Big Tech companies to censor Americans” and was now pressuring tech giants to police their content.
Conservatives say that Democratic efforts to remove misinformation and hate speech are really just an excuse to silence dissenting opinions by pressuring edge providers to silence them. Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) has shown signs of wanting to join his party in regulating Big Tech.
His remarks after the speech emphasised the importance of “reining in Big Tech companies that track our children’s data and target them with manipulative ads,” and “holding big corporations accountable.”
Since his days as a House leader on communications oversight, Markey has made children’s media exposure a signature issue. He has sponsored legislation such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the Children’s Television Act of 1990.